Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
December 6, 2013
Mr. President: Nelson Mandela died peacefully at 8:50pm yesterday, December 5,
2013, in his Johannesburg home. The South African President called him a son of
Africa and father to the new nation of South Africa. Tributes are pouring in
particularly from the western world so it is easy to forget what it thought of him even
thirty years ago. He was the first Commander-in-Chief of ANC's military wing, forced
into this role by the South African government's savage attacks on unarmed
demonstrators engaged in peaceful acts of civil disobedience.
Long labeled a terrorist and his African National Congress outlawed, the Reagan
administration insisted on promoting Zulu Chief Buthelezi as a partner for peace.
Violence between the rival black groups delayed the outcome, but even that ploy
failed and the ANC emerged as the major leader of the people. Chief Buthelezi's
Inkatha Freedom Party at first joined ANC in a unity government but now sits in
Yet in the days when the ANC had their backs to the wall with little in the way of
material support from anywhere, least of all from the West where they were stamped
terrorists, the man who stood by them was Muammar Gaddafi of Libya -- a man
though clearly not without faults, but who led his country to the top of the Human
Development Index in Africa. It is now a shattered country, split into three, its
infrastructure destroyed including an expensive and elaborate water project that led
to the greening of Tripoli. Nelson Mandela abhorred the attack on Libya and the
brutal and savage murder of Gaddafi, the man who supported the ANC in its time of
Whatever might be said of the South African government (and there is plenty) it did
bring the eight ANC leaders to trial; it allowed Mandela to speak in his defense; and it
did not sentence any of them to death. Although, it does make one wonder what
might have happened had the ANC been operating in our present drone-crazed
world, when the South African military was in hot pursuit of ANC fighters into
neighboring countries. Would these leaders, in our present vocabulary have been
subject to drone strikes?
And then there is Ahmed Kathrada, a Muslim and one of the eight ANC leaders,
including Nelson Mandela, sentenced to Robben Island for their role in leading the
armed resistance. He said he considered Walter Sisulu his father and Nelson
Mandela his older brother, adding he could always go to Sisulu if he needed advice
and after he passed away to Mandela. Breaking down, he wondered where he would
The media in its selective reporting also fail to mention Cuba's contribution. Cuban
troops blunted the Kissinger-developed UNITA rebels supported by South African
forces in Angola weakening South Africa in both Angola and neighboring Namibia to
the south, where they were engaged against the ANC military wing. Add all this to the
bombings and violence in South Africa itself, the boycotts against it, and the South
African government gambled on using Mandela as a pawn to quell the violence -- not
unlike Israel using the PLO. He, of course, turned the tables by asking for an election
with full black participation at an opportune moment -- the murder of Chris Hani, a
former ANC armed wing commander, by extreme right-wing conservatives.
The rhetoric employed against the ANC was not dissimilar to that used against the
PLO and Hamas. One cannot also fail to forget how the ANC remained on the U.S.
terrorism list all the way until July 2008, when George W. Bush signed them out long
after Mandela had been president (1994-1999), and ANC leaders could at last travel
to the U.S. without a special waiver.
The Pollyanna-like view of Mandela prevailing in the media tributes omits a salient
historical fact: power is seldom surrendered one discovers; it has to be taken.
It applies to the numerous conflicts around the world, including the recent contested
Honduran election result where the losing opposition wants an investigation of the
stolen votes, the stuffed ballots, and for the disenfranchised voters, while the ruling
party wants only a recount of the existing votes. The U.S. supplies arms and
acquiesced in the coup four years ago restoring the rule of the twelve elite families.